Comparison

Even Ford Raptor lovers have to admit, there's areas where the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX wins

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a compelling truck for off-road enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Part of this whole "automotive journalism" thing is I get to drive new cars. Years ago, my very first loan was a 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, with the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 making 414 horsepower. I was hooked.

Raptor quickly became my favorite pickup, and the changes the company made for the big 2017 refresh only made the truck better. Yes, Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost doesn't sound meaty like a V8, but it is faster and lighter. Add on the LiveValve suspension technology from 2019 and you have the ingredients for my favorite pickup truck.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Ford Performance showcases the jumping power of the Ford Raptor at Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

But, I also understand that competition is necessary to make products better. Consumers win where there is competition, so when I caught wind of Ram Trucks building their Raptor-fighter I was all for it.

So, while I haven't had a chance to drive the new Ram TRX, I do believe it's a truck that I could easily fall in love with. It might even replace the precious Raptor as my favorite truck. But why would it? Here's some areas where the TRX, at least on paper, beats the Raptor.

Power plant

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Raptor's 3.5-liter EcoBoost makes a perfectly acceptable 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. At no point driving Raptor have I ever thought, "Hmm, this needs more oomph." Yet, here we are with 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque in the TRX.

The EcoBoost in the Raptor will undoubtedly weigh less than the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the TRX, which always helps with handling, but in sheer grunt the Ram wins the day.

Exhaust note

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

My only real complaint about Raptor is how the truck sounds. I want a trophy truck to sound like a trophy truck, and not a modified Focus RS. The sound doesn't hurt the Raptor's performance at all but listening to the Ram TRX rev is like listening to the approaching apocalypse. It's glorious.

Technology

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Raptor is filled with modern tech, especially for off-road driving. So is the TRX, which has more USB ports (Types A and C) and a larger infotainment screen.

One interesting thing that the Ram offers that I'd love to see on the F-150 lineup is a color head-up display. Is it necessary? No, but it's one piece of tech that the Ram has that can benefit you when you're jumping dunes – knowing at what speed you hit that dune as you keep your eyes focused ahead.

Standard equipment

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Yes, the Raptor is less expensive for the base model ($53,455), which makes it a smarter buy if you just want to jump the dunes for less. But, the Ram TRX has more on its base truck than any other Hellcat-equipped FCA product, making it a bit of a bargain (if $70,000 is a bargain).

Wheels and tires

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

TRX comes with bead-lock capable wheels and 35-inch tires as standard. The bead-lock capable wheels on the Raptor are an optional upgrade. Also, the Raptor drives around on "just" 34-inch tires, while the TRX goes bigger.

Spare tire

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

From the factory, both trucks come with a spare tire mounted underneath the bed, like on a typical truck. But if you're an off-roader, you likely would like access to that tire made easier. The Mopar accessory catalog includes a spare tire carrier, which will be able to be added to the bill when your truck is ordered and installed at the factory before delivery.

For the Raptor, there are many options available for putting one or two spare tires in the bed, but none are currently available from Ford to be installed for delivery.

So, where does Raptor win?

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor's EcoBoost engine has been used during the Baja 1000 and tested extensively for desert performance. While Ram says they durability tested the motor – plus it's in thousands of vehicles already – they haven't built a race truck yet.

The Raptor will also have better fuel economy, especially with the 10-speed automatic transmission compared to Ram's eight-speed in the TRX. It's not much better, mind you, but it'll be better.

This might be personal preference, but BFG's K02s that come standard on Raptor are more appealing to me as an all-terrain tire than the Goodyear on the TRX. On paper, the same applies for the Fox Racing shocks; I haven't seen how these Bilsteins perform yet.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor will likely have a bit better handling. It'll be a lighter truck with less weight in the nose, which will make it steer and handle a bit better. How much better? I'm itching to get behind the wheel and find out.

Finally, the Raptor, in its current guise, is cheaper. A fully loaded Launch Edition TRX is over $90,000. It starts a shade under $70,000 for the base truck. Yes, there's more standard features but there's a significant price jump from Raptor's approximately $54,000 base price. All in, albeit for a few accessories like a tonneau cover, the Raptor comes to around $72,000.

The ultimate winner?

Until the trucks are driven back-to-back there's no clear winner. If you like just pure horsepower, the Ram is what you want. But the Raptor is still an immensely capable pickup with a proven record of performance.

With that being said, the Ram TRX appears to be an EXTREMELY compelling offering and will likely sell like bananas. At least until Ford releases an updated Raptor here in the near future.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

If you've got a reservation, you can now order your 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In a memo to dealers, Ford has announced that it is lowering the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of its 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E, the long-awaited all-electric crossover.

According to a post on the Mach-E forum, the price of the Mustang Mach-E will be $1,000 to $3,000 than initially promoted. The memo states that the Mustang Mach-E Premium will be $3,000 lower than initially anticipated with the all-wheel drive version dropping to $50,800 and rear-wheel drive model now coming in at $48,100.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The Ford Mustang Mach-E will begin arriving at dealership lots soon. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Mach-E First Edition, a sold-out top-of-the-line model, will get a $1,000 price deduction. That same drop applies to the Mach-E Select, the base model. That base model has a 230-mile range. Higher price point versions of the Mach-E can achieve up to 300 miles of range.

The price of each vehicle includes a $1,100 delivery charge. Customers are eligible to receive a $7,500 federal tax credit with purchase.

Pricing will apply to all models that have been ordered since the Mach-E was unveiled at the 2019 L.A. Auto Show. The first deliveries of the crossover are expected to arrive in customer hands later this year.

How does the new price compare? The freshly-unveiled Volkswagen ID.4 will start at $41,990 including the cost of delivery, making it about $2,000 less than the new price of the Mach-E Select, which comes in at $43,995 for front-wheel drive models and $46,695 for all-wheel drive variants. The ID.4 will get up to 250 miles on a single charge.

The Tesla Model Y comes in at $49,990 but has more range than the Mustang Mach-E at 316 miles on a single charge and comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Ford and Volkswagen vehicles will rely on private charging opportunities. Both companies have recently announced partnerships with Electrify America, which has two cross-country charging routes available and is working to rapidly install charging stations at private enterprises and in public spaces nationwide.

Volkswagen ID.4 buyers get three years of free charging with purchase. Mustang Mach-E owners get 250-kilowatt-hours of free charging when they buy a Mach-E.

Tesla has a fully built-out electric vehicle charging infrastructure that allows for fast charging of the Model Y. With that capability it can relain 158 miles of charge in just 15 minutes while at a Supercharger. There are 17,000 Superchargers worldwide and six new locations open each week according to the Tesla website.

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The Land Rover Defender holds up when compared to the Defenders of the past.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

If you know anything about extreme off-road expeditions and four-wheel-drive icons, you know the Land Rover Defender. If you have an imprint in your head of vehicles that have roamed the wilds of Africa or the outback of Australia, you'll likely conjure up an image of these stalwart, boxy and tall-legged utilitarian models kicking up dust across the savannah. You might even have a memory of Defenders ferrying British royals around their castle grounds or on hunting and fishing forays.

Since the 80s, this legendary SUV has garnered a fervent fan-following. It has been a workhorse and conqueror of jungles around the globe, but unavailable in the U.S. market since 1997 due to stiffened safety regulations. An all-new version has been reimagined for the 21st century; the five-door 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 is on sale now while its stablemate, the three-door 2021 Defender 90, goes on sale in the new year.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender is easy to drive, but steering is a bit heavy.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The Defender has been engineered on a new all-aluminum unibody platform that is the stiffest Land Rover body ever created; it has short front and rear overhangs that aid in off-roading, with a rear-mounted spare tire. New is a fully-independent suspension, twin-speed transfer box and permanent four-wheel-drive. It has been crafted for personalization with four different Accessory Packs (Explorer, Adventure, Country, and Urban), and the greatest number of individual accessories ever offered by the brand.

I drove the 2020 Defender 110 X on a three-day test drive of more than 200 miles. The tester was set up with a number of options, including electronic air suspension, and retailed for $85,750. The X derivative is adorned with a Gloss Black inset contrast hood with Gloss Black claddings, along with front and rear skid pans and other trim elements that are coated in a Starlight Satin finish, while Windsor Leather and Steelcut Premium Textile accent the interior.

I am a "classic" Defender enthusiast and have driven these models on numerous extreme off-road journeys around the globe, so I approached my evaluation of the new model with a bit of mild trepidation fearing that I would favor the original and eschew the new. There were many pleasant surprises.

2020 Land Rover Defender A day of testing included on- and off-road driving.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

I found the emblematic upright, brick-shaped silhouette had morphed into a more contemporary expression penned with softened lines that will enhance fuel economy over the '97. Its looks are appealing and mesh well with other models in the Land Rover portfolio, with angles of approach and departure that speak to its off-road mission, and up-level styling cues and trim elements.

The interior was not only bright, roomy and ergonomically pleasing but laden with luxe-level comfort and convenience features, such as heated and cooled seats, wireless charging and heads-up display. I appreciated the lockable 1.5-gallon glovebox, deep door pockets and thoughtful array of stowage features.

Off-roading requires supplies and supplies require storage space. The Defender's second-row seatbacks split 40/20/40 for flexibility and loadspace rails on the floor of the rear cargo area come with load retention accessories to keep smaller items from moving around inside. A lockable, heavy-duty steel Security Box adds protection and secures to the loadspace rails; it can hold laptops, tablets and other valuables, while an exposed cross car beam serves as a shelf to hold 1.83 gallons of open storage. A clip-in, washable loadspace cover doubles as a ground mat for picnics or for changing mucky footwear on wet surfaces.

2020 Land Rover Defender The interior of the Defender is upscale with an intuitive infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The drive route took me on fast-moving highways and along slow, meandering byways providing two different opportunities to evaluate the vehicle's design prowess for serious four-wheeling and its intelligent off-road technologies. Defender's road manners were excellent, with a slightly heavy-handed feel to steering. Its responsive suspension brought confidence to navigating its mass of more than 5,000 pounds on tight and twisty tarmac with adaptive dampers monitoring body movements up to 500 times per second and responding almost instantly to optimize body control and comfort.

The Defender, as tested with the available 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, provided an ample 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, seamlessly runs through the gears for smooth up- and down-shifting and its stopping power comes in a measured manner. The engine features mild-hybrid technology which helps it get off the line more efficiently.

Our first foray into off-roading was at the Land Rover Experience Center, in Manchester, Vermont, where a lengthy, wooded off-road course with stretches of technical track provided an opportunity to try out the bevy of intelligent off-road tech, including Terrain Response 2 with its new Wade program (Defender has 35 inches of water fording capability) and Land Rover's new off-road Configurable Terrain Response system, which is designed to set up the Defender for precise conditions using the center touch screen controller. A choice of three settings for the throttle and gearbox response, steering and traction control, lets drivers tailor their Defender.

2020 Land Rover Defender The Defender has 35 inches of fording capability.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Other cool tech includes advanced All-Terrain Progress Control (moves the vehicle independently at preset speeds) and ClearSight Ground View, a forward-facing camera which was developed for extreme off-road situations, and shows the hidden area directly in front of the vehicle using the central touchscreen.

That touch screen, a 10-inch Pivi Pro system comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and over-the-air updates.

After trying out the 2020 Defender technologies on steep up and downhills, off-camber slopes and through water, we motored on a series of logging roads and dirt tracks to the top of Mt. Equinox, that sits at nearly 4,000 feet along the Green Mountain range, in southern Vermont.

2020 Land Rover Defender A two-tone paint scheme is available.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Two days of off-roading and multiple miles of driving on paved roads brought confirmed insight. The legendary Defenders of the past will still appeal to purists and will always kick up dirt in the outbacks and savannahs of the world, and likely still ferry the Royals. The new Defender is laudable; it's designed and engineered to appeal to today's buyers and it will soon develop its own fan following.

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